Driving in an unfamiliar city, neighborhood or country can be a fascinating experience.
Twenty-six years ago, we drove into Citta Centro d’Firenze in search of our lodging (Despite the name on the sign, it was certainly the “Pensione Bates” and I am positive that Alfred Hitchcock owned it, but that’s another story), and found that we arrived on market day after the streets had been closed to vehicles for the afternoon “pedestrian zone”.
Despite studious analysis of maps, and multiple attempts to reach our lodging not far from the Duomo, the maze of one-way streets and temporarily closed streets was daunting. We drove around and around on circuitous and repetitive routes again and again without reaching our goal. I finally “navigated” (on a one-way street, of course) into the market Piazza, where the morning market was in full swing. Before I comprehended the compound nature of my error, I had driven down an aisle of booths to the horror of vendors and customers alike (I did see a hand-tooled leather belt that I liked)! There was
NO WAY OUT!
With great relief, I espied a ramp down into an under-building parking deck! Alas, it was the exit ramp. However, I could see the entrance ramp on the other side. Utilizing the “what could they do to me” attitude of the arrogant, merely hubristic, frustrated, or at best naive, tourist, I quickly drove down the exit ramp and up the entrance ramp. Lo and behold, around the corner was our Hotel!
“Fast-frame” ahead more than twenty years, again to Firenze. Arriving in the vicinity of our Hotel in the Oltrarno (Florence south of the Arno River), I found unmapped one-way streets and, en situ, no perceivable way to reach the required entrance direction (at least, to the eye of the jet-lagged tourista newly arrived from Malpensa, 3-1/2 hours away). After several circumnavigations of most of Oltrarno and indeed of Firenze itself, the “Mercado Solution” beckoned, a “last resort” contingency. Succumbing, I turned the wrong-way into a block-long empty street, with our hotel in clear view ahead, victory in grasp!
Half-way along, a young lady astride a ubiquitous Vespa came alongside from the correct direction and, waving her fist at me, shouted – not “Boy” or “Tibbs” but “Imbecile!!”, a very common name in Italy, we have learned! We did, however, arrive safely at our Hotel without further increasing our carbon footprint!
Is there a moral to this tawdry tale, you ask? Yes! (at last…). If you ask me for directions from here to there, I can assure you that, if you actually and painstakingly follow them, you WILL arrive at your destination. My directions are renowned for being well-studied, analyzed, considered, plotted and expedient (your mileage may vary, and objects in the mirror may be closer than they appear to be).
However, along the way, you may find out that…